Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I admire about Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy: He uses preseason games for things other than just getting his players sharp and trimming the roster. He also uses it for strategic experimentation. Take Friday night against Oakland. The Packers went for two after each of their four touchdowns. (Two made, two failed. Even Steven.) The Packers also went for it on fourth down twice with the first offensive unit in the game. As McCarthy told the press afterward: “It’s about taking advantage of situational football in preseason. We made a conscious decision going into preseason that we wanted to work more on two-point plays and fourth-down calls.” Question: If you’ve got a terrific spread scheme (Green Bay does) and one of the most accurate quarterbacks in football history (Green Bay does) and a quarterback with mobility (Green Bay does), why wouldn’t you go for two after every touchdown? (Other than when a single point is the obvious play late in games.) Green Bay scored 46 touchdowns last year. Say they score 50 this year, assuming Aaron Rodgers plays a full season; he missed seven games last year. Isn’t it realistic to think if the Packers spent a few more practice plays each week on the two-pointer that they could go 30 of 50, meaning 10 more points over the course of the season?
2. I think every team with a quarterback the coach trusts should go for two after every touchdown—except, of course, in cases where one point is strategically smarter in the last 15 or 20 minutes of a game.
3. I think if you read this space last week you know I support ex-Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff’s case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and so I was pleased to see the Seniors Committee nominate him for the Class of 2015. That’s the first step. Now Tingelhoff’s case will be heard and debated by the 46 Hall of Fame voters when the next selection meeting is held on Jan. 31, 2015, in Phoenix, the day before Super Bowl 49. If at least 80 percent of the voters present vote yes on Tingelhoff, he’ll be enshrined next August in Canton.
4. I think every year at this time, when the Seniors Committee announces its decision on a nominee or nominees, the Jerry Kramer fans start hollering for their guy. I wrote about this two years ago, but because Kramer’s case inflames the passions like no other (now that Ray Guy is in), I will sum up again why Kramer hasn’t been a Senior candidate—not that he never will be, but just that he hasn’t been to this point.
Kramer retired after the 1968 season, and he was a Hall of Fame finalist nine times in his 15 seasons as a modern-era candidate: 1974 through 1981, 1984 and 1987. He was also a Seniors Committee nominee once, in 1997. Thus, Kramer’s case was heard by the Hall of Fame selectors 10 times in 24 years. The Seniors Committee tries to nominate some of the players who, for one reason or another, have been overlooked. Tingelhoff is a perfect example. His case has never been heard by the board of selectors—pretty remarkable, I think, for a center who made first-team NFL All-Pro (on various teams such as AP and the Pro Football Writers) more than any other NFL center, and who started 358 consecutive preseason, regular-season and post-season games. “Mick Tingelhoff is the reason we have a Seniors Committee,’’ said Dallas writer Rick Gosselin, a member of the panel. “He was an oversight that needed to be addressed.” I’ve always thought we should hear the cases of seniors whose candidacies fell through the cracks. Kramer never fell through the cracks. Tingelhoff did. I can’t explain why Kramer was voted to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team in 1969 and then not selected by many of the same voters to the Hall.
I also find it interesting that, two years ago, when I asked Bart Starr about any other candidates he felt strongly about on his team who deserved to be in Canton, he mentioned one offensive lineman, and it wasn’t Kramer. “Bob Skoronski,” he said. “Bob protected my blind side at left tackle, and you know how important the blind side is for protection to a quarterback. You’d look at their grades when the coaches graded the film after the game, and their grades were virtually the same, game after game. I am so disappointed he hasn’t gotten in the Hall.” I asked Starr if there were other players he wanted to recommend, and he said no. So that pretty much sums up why I believe other long-retired players are ahead of Kramer in line for Canton.
5. I think this speech wasn’t made by a football coach, but it should be required viewing for everyone who coaches any youth sport in America—football very much included—after coach Dave Belisle’s Cumberland, R.I., Little League team lost a heartbreaker to bow out of the Little League World Series. The best from Belisle, after he calmed his sobbing kids:
“You are going to take back for the rest of your life what you provided for a town like Cumberland. You had the whole place jumpin’, right? You had the whole state jumpin’. You had New England jumpin’. You had ESPN jumpin’, OK? And you want to know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys who don’t quit. They like guys who play the game the right way. We got down to the nitty gritty. We’re one of the best teams in the world. Think about that for a second. In the world!”
What a great job by Belisle, and a great job by ESPN capturing it.
6. I think the Rams deserve tremendous credit for their attention to the schools and football teams in Ferguson, Mo., during the unrest there. The team invited players from the schools that service students in Ferguson—McCluer (the school Robert Klemko wrote about for The MMQB last week), McCluer North and McCluer South-Berkeley—to their game nine days ago, and then had them attend practice last Wednesday. They watched drills, provided faux crowd noise when coach Jeff Fisher asked for it (to help the offense deal with crowd noise during the season), and then practiced in the team’s indoor facility afterward. A class move by a team trying to put some salve on an open wound in the community.
7. I think you’d be surprised by the laissez-faire attitude of corners I’ve spoken to in the past week about the points of emphasis intended to cut down on hand-fighting downfield between corners and receivers. “That’s the least of my worries, man,” Aqib Talib said in Denver. “There’s so many big-time receivers, big-time quarterbacks out here. We got educated about it, and now I can’t worry about the referees. I’ve got to just play. If I get a call, it’s on to the next play. I’m not gonna worry about it, not at all.”
8. I think the 49ers have to stop worrying about being such good corporate neighbors—and about scheduling so many non-NFL events in their new stadium during the football season—and worry about getting their field right. You saw, I’m sure, that the Niners had to rip up the grass field late in the week (a new thicker grass was imported and installed Friday, two days before Sunday’s preseason game against the Chargers) and postpone the two high school games to prevent damage to the field in advance of the Sept. 14 home opener. So the Niners told the four schools scheduled to play a high school football doubleheader this Friday that they could all play a game on the weekend of Oct. 10 and 11. Now, instead of two high school games this week, there will be four in two days in midseason. I get it: There’s a three-week gap between Oct. 11 and the Niners’ next home game. So they can get the field ready or install new turf if need be. But with a Mexico-Chile soccer match and four high school football games in the place over a five-week period, if I’m Jim Harbaugh, I’m wondering: What’s the priority here? It should be to have the best field for the 49ers. The rest of the stuff can happen in the offseason.
9. I think it’s going to be hard to stash Michael Sam on the practice squad. Hard, but not impossible. With two sacks this month and more quickness than he showed late in his college season (he’s 13 pounds lighter, at 257, than his college playing weight), Sam is pushing hard for a spot on the Rams’ 53-man roster. If not that, certainly the 10-man practice squad. But the Rams know they risk losing him if they do the latter. NFL rules allow for players to be exposed to other teams before they can be put on the practice squad. I’m sure some teams wouldn’t want to deal with a perceived sideshow with Sam and wouldn’t put in a claim. But where exactly has the sideshow been? Sam’s been the anti-distraction since turning down the Oprah reality show in the spring.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I wish I’d known Jim Foley. What a sad, scary story.
b. The story of the week comes from ESPN’s Tommy Tomlinson, a terrific inside-the-guy’s-head piece on former University of Kentucky and NFL quarterback Jared Lorenzen’s weight problems.
c. One of the best leads I’ve read in a while comes from the story, and from a man, Tomlinson, who has battled his own weight issues: “Jared Lorenzen and I are in love with the same woman. Her name is Little Debbie, and she makes delicious snack cakes.”
d. It’s the carbs, Jared. Attack the carbs.
e. I’m no wise man about that stuff (you couldn’t tell?), but it’s the truth.
f. So Kevin Durant has been offered more money, per year, to push Under Armour shoes and clothes, $25 million annually, on average, than any NFL player will make in salary this year to play football. Funny world.
g. Funnier world: The Red Sox gave a Cuban outfielder, Rusney Castillo, a contract worth $72 million over seven years Friday. They have never scouted him in a game. He has not played in a game since 2012. As one source told ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes, the Red Sox saw him in maybe 30 live at-bats in a couple of workouts. Sports is risky, but this seems almost a desperate investment.
h. Has any baseball player been back and forth to the penthouse and the outhouse more times than Tim Lincecum?
i. Coffeenerdness: Oh, and that vow to keep it to three macchiatos a week? That’s by the boards, unless the week starts on Monday and ends on Tuesday.
j. Beernerdness: Had a gem Friday night in Phoenix: Fretzy’s Hefeweizen, a delicious wheat beer, one of the lighter and spicier Hefeweizens I’ve tried, from the Phoenix Ale Brewery. A perfect summer beer. Congratulations on one of the best new beers I’ve tried this year, Phoenix Ale.
k. Good luck in the new gig with NBC, Paul Burmeister. You’re a good man.
The Adieu Haiku
I know Bradford some.
I’m quite sure he’d trade millions
to be whole right now.